Watchtower to Sell 6 Brooklyn Heights Properties

Standish Arms, 2 Others to be Sold as Portfolio

Broklyn Daily Eagle, New York/April 26, 2007
By Linda Collins

Brooklyn Heights — A recent report that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society would be selling its building at 169 Columbia Heights, formerly the Standish Arms Hotel, was confirmed and augmented yesterday with the announcement that the Standish and five other Watchtower properties would be sold.

The six properties are all residential and all in Brooklyn Heights, according to David Semonian, a spokesperson for the Watchtower Society, also known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Three are being sold as a portfolio, and the other three are being sold separately,” said Semonian in an email.

As regularly chronicled in this newspaper, the religious organization has been reorganizing and consolidating a number of its operations in Brooklyn and transferring some to Walkill, N.Y. In 2004, the printing and shipping operations were transferred to Wallkill, resulting in the sale of 360 Furman St., a building on the waterfront in the Heights which had been used as a warehouse and shipping complex.

“These adjustments resulted in a decrease in our Brooklyn staff, reducing our need for residential space,” said Semonian.

The three being sold as a portfolio include:

  • The Standish, a 12-story Beaux-Arts-style building built in 1903, with 128 apartments. It has been owned by Watchtower since 1988 (leased by Watchtower since 1981).
  • 183 Columbia Heights, a seven-story Beaux-Arts-style brick and limestone building dating to 1920, with 13 apartments (one three-bedroom, five two-bedrooms, and seven one-bedrooms), owned by Watchtower since 1986.
  • 161 Columbia Heights, a four-story building built in 1844, with 10 apartments — seven one-bedrooms and three studios — owned by Watchtower since 1988.

The three being sold separately include:

  • 165 Columbia Heights, a two-story 4,200-square-foot carriage house constructed in the 1880s, which has a large second-story home with two bedrooms, three baths, a formal dining room and living room, and a large one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor.
  • 105 Willow St., a four-story, brownstone-fronted Eastlake-style rowhouse built between 1861 and 1879, with 10 studio apartments. Its restoration earned the Watchtower a Certificate of Merit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
  • 34 Orange St., a four-story (plus cellar) brick house built between 1880 and 1899 with four one-bedroom apartments, a separate brick one-car garage, and off-street parking for another car. It could easily be converted into a single-family home.

The properties at 165 Columbia Heights, 105 Willow and 34 Orange will be delivered vacant, according to Richard Devine, who is in charge of real property for the organization. The four other properties have existing tenants who are not members of the society.

“They have tenants who were in the buildings when we bought them and have remained in them,” said Devine, who added that Watchtower workers have already moved out, representing a staff of about 280 that were occupying the six buildings.

“Some have already moved to Walkill, others have been absorbed into other residential buildings when vacancies have occurred,” he explained.

Previous Property Sales

In addition to 360 Furman, which is currently being converted into 500 luxury condos by RAL Development Services, the Watchtower announced a year ago that it was selling its residential buildings at 89 Hicks St. (since sold to Brooklyn Law School) and 67 Livingston St. (since sold to a private investor).

The circa-1940 property at 89 Hicks has 48 residential units on six floors.

The circa-1988 property at 67 Livingston, also known locally as “the sliver building,” has 76 units on 26 floors.

No Asking Prices

As in previous sales, there are no asking prices attached to the buildings or portfolio.

“We let the market determine the price,” said Devine, who explained that those interested can request information from the Real Property Office.

Known for immaculate and well-kept buildings, the society should have no problem attracting buyers. “These buildings in particular are in very good condition,” said Devine. “They would be of great interest to a private developer.”

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